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Starting Conversations - Part 3

If you haven't already, start with Part 1 and Part 2. In Part 2 I mentioned that I have hired Don to coach me on networking, and this week I'll share some results from our first 1.5 hour session.

Prior to the call Don asked me to identify 3 goals, and then he provided some details to build up around that. I'll condense it a little here. In general I decided to tie my goals directly to the upcoming PASS Summit because I'll be in charge of 'networking' events and more importantly, because I - and hopefully many of you - go to events like these to network.

My first goal was to meet some specific people that I don't "know". Building that list is minor challenge because I don't know for sure who will be there, but I started with a few people I was hoping to spend more than 5 minutes chatting with. One of things Don (the coach) asked me to do what write down how I could these people. I like that approach, rather than just what's in it for me, and I think it takes us to the biggest challenge of networking. If you're "just" a DBA, what can you do for any nationally known speaker or MVP? Why would I want to talk to you, or why would person X talk to me? Say I want to have lunch with Steve Ballmer? Doesn't everyone? Ok, maybe not quite everyone, but the point is that on the other side they have x minutes in the day for networking and they have to choose. Looking forward to working on this more in our next call.

My second goal is to extend the reach of SQLSaturday in the US. For this I wrote down a few early ideas, and we haven't had time to work much on this one.

My third goal was to extend my brand to include networking skills and tools. This is a personal goal, but it maps directly to the things I want to accomplish at the Summit and within my career. My notes here focus on ideas for events at the Summit and figuring out what minimal coaching/education I can do for attendees in some form to help them network better.

Our first call was mostly about me. What I do for a living, review of my goals, and then into a discussion about branding versus reputation. Don agrees with me (so far anyway) that brands are easier to create than reputation, and reputations are pretty easy to screw up. Obvious stuff, but that in turn lead to talking about my brand, which to me is currently fuzzy. Am I a SQL guy? A professional development guy? Business guy? Am I projecting a brand that matches my goal and reputation? That lead in turn to discussing brand building and I do most of the stuff already - write, speak, participate, I'm just trying to refine the brand and increase my visibility (in a good way). That in turn led to talking briefly about SQLSaturday and the PASS Summit and the MVP program, the latter being one of the things that I just don't know how to exploit in a way that fits me so far.

Lots of discussion, more me talking than Don on the first call while he evaluates where I'm at and my communication skills. For next week I have to work on a few things:

  1. Work on distinguishing between features and benefits for each of my four main interests (End to End Training, JumpstartTV, SQLSaturday, and PASS) and refine it down to a 1 min pitch or less for each where I try to say "I help people.....". Worth doing, if hard, and next week I'll have to practice on Don.
  2. Take a short quiz to determine my conversational style, then look at the style least like me
  3. Analyze at least one other person to try to figure out their conversational style (and I'll be working on this at SQLSaturday #13)

Interesting so far, but no big results or aha moments yet. I'm trying hard to be a good student, doing my prep work, listening, leaving my pride out of it. So far so good on those. I have no idea yet if 6 hours is too much, too little, or just right.

If you've got questions or comments about this minor journey I'd enjoy hearing them - might open a door for me as well.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Jerry Hung on 30 April 2009

missing word in the "write down how I could these people"?

I applaud your efforts, I should work on achieving small goals to complete a greater goal. And meeting people is difficult in this line of work.

Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn do not count

Posted by carl.gruber on 4 May 2009

I presume the missing word is either "approach" or "initiate discussion" or something to that effect.

You are getting great advise from Don.  If you want to meet somebody, there must be a reason.  Why not figure out what the reason is ahead of time?  That way, there is no awkward moment of "what the??"

Posted by malathi.mahadevan on 4 May 2009

Thank you Andy for the honest sharing. Networking is a very difficult art to master, a subtle combo of genuine needs for friendship and using the relationships for furthering one's career/business etc. I disagree though that we always need reasons to meet someone. Yeah sometimes we do if they are celebrities maybe. But I have met those people who have agendas or reasons that stick out a mile even before they say hello and they are big turn offs even if one has the ability to help.  

Posted by Steve Jones on 4 May 2009

This is an interesting series, and I'm curious to see the goals, pitches, and where this goes.

Posted by blythe.morrow on 10 June 2009

This is a great little series Andy. I'm really enjoying it. The one thing I think I'm pretty good at is remembering names. When I was in Collage, I realized I was horrible at it and made it my personal challenge to get better. I use two techniques.

I repeat names a lot. When I meet someone, I always repeat their name and when I introduce people I meet to new people, I repeat their name again.

If I get a business card I write something about them I can easily remember as soon as our encounter is over. If I don't get a card, I normally have a writing surface. That way you can go over who you met after the fact too.

Now what I really struggle with is the approach and initaiting conversation. I can't wait to have free book time, so I can pick this one up.  

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